Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Patliputra Experience..

Ask any non-Bihari about the prospect of going and living in Bihar and you will get in return a stare that would murder you if it had arms and legs. Ask a Bihari living in Delhi or Mumbai or any other city in the country or even the world about going back to Patna and living an affluent life in his hometown, and his eyes would well up and next thing you know, you would be subjected to a huge bear hug and numerous kisses.
That, in essence, is what Patna represents. Heaven for the sons of its soil but hell for anyone else.

I m not a Bihari. Hell I m not even from north India.

My fate was sealed in a couple of mad mad seconds during the induction programme. It was my first job. I was sitting there in the hall, along with my fellow trainees, excited about the prospect of starting my career. As the list of possible locations were called out, I sat there imagining living in the city that the training coordinator had just called out.

Delhi.. my home.. would be just perfect.. but no point thinking of it.. they have given it to four girls..

Mumbai.. THE city of India.. awesome lifestyle.. cool place to work I have heard.. well.. the guy sitting next to me got it.. thats off the list too.. dream destination.. close to my hometown.. nice young crowd.. I might even find a perfect South Indian girlfriend..NOOO!!! That Punjabi girl got it.. what would she do in Bangalore!

Patna.. err.. excuse me??

The moment Patna was uttered by the faculty of the training college, everyone including myself tightened up with tension, praying to all the 36 million Hindu Gods that the next name uttered by him be anyone but mine. The moment my name was called out everyone else let out a sigh of relief. Everyone had their eyes on me. The guys from that blessed land who had half expected their name to be blessed with the Patna prefix looked around, upset, bemused, disappointed, their eyes searching for the traitor who stole their fortune from right under their nose. The others looked at me with a certain sense of pity. Poor guy, I could hear them thinking. Some offered me fake condolences, reassuring me that it was better now over there with the new government coming in. Why don’t we swap locations then, I offered, it was much better after all with the new government coming in. They cringed, shrank back in their cave, and didn’t approach me again that day. I pleaded with the nice looking madam who had come in with the transfer letters. She had been very kind to all of us yesterday, offering us valuable advice about the workings of the organisation, the dos and the don’ts. NO was the flat response I got from her, along with was a very stern look.

I was quite numb with shock. I know the more educated, wise people will always say that this is just the way you have to face life's challenges. Well dear sirs and madams, you expect a horse to walk first & run later. When I called home, my parents went silent, unable to comprehend what to say. I called up my best friend and all I could hear once I told him the news was the sound of his hysterical laughter.

Anyway, so I have been there and back now. Three years spent there, three years of my twenties. How did it go? I will tell you in detail my friends. Here is my tutorial to anyone who is given the honour of going and living in the ‘metropolitan city’ of Bihar. This is my take on what Patna is, how it was to live there and what people going there should expect.

(Paaint no. Bhan)
First of all, let me clarify one thing to everyone. Although I have mentioned the terms ‘Patna’ and ‘city’ together many times already, I am convinced that it is not a city. Biharis call it a city because they have to call at least some place in their state a city. Patna is a very very poor excuse for a city. Many names come to mind while describing Patna- a crowded hive, an unkempt township, an overgrown village, but a city? Not a chance!

(Paaint no. Two)
As to the many people (including my pals who showed me fake sympathy when my life got intertwined with this city during that fateful induction session) who say that Patna is a growing city and is the next big thing (I even heard some say that its the next Bangalore!! God bless them..), all I can say is .. Babaji ka Ghanta!! Patna is a overgrown pile of people and is only better than the rest of the state because its a state capital. Period. It is a city which was once such a stinking pile of shit that when the new government came in an cleaned it up a bit, people mistook the absence of the stench as the presence of a sweet smell of development.

(Paaint no. Threeee)
I must say that my first impression of the place was a bit of a pleasant surprise. The platform on which I alighted from the train was quite clean and uncrowded, and the taxi ride to the guest house was short and smooth; the roads fairly clean and the traffic light.
In hindsight, I realise that I saw all this only because it was 6 in the morning; and Patna wakes up only by 10.

(Paaint no. Phor)
Patna waasis, and in general Biharis are very respectful in their speech. Addressing someone as 'Tu' is very demeaning as far as they are concerned. Learn something you brash Delhites, Haryanvis and Punjabis!! Even in a serious fight they give their adversary their due respect. Its always 'Aap ch***ye hain!!' or 'Aap jaisa maadarc**d maine kabhi nai dekha!!'. Politeness, a Bihari's true virtue!

(Paaint no. Phaive)
Pavements on the road sides are not for pedestrians to walk as we have grown up thinking here in Delhi. In Patna, they are legal pathways for enthusiastic bikers who find the road an insult to drive on. If a pedestrian gets hit, he must not raise his voice in protest. How dare he think he could walk there??

(Paaint no. Chau)
The constitution of Bihar gives its vehicle drivers an additional right- the right to honk. It seems the DNA of a Bihari is such that his hands start itching if he doesn’t push that button on his bike or on the steering wheel of his car. Honking liberates a Patna commuter's soul, gives him inner peace. For in this land, honking is just loud meditation.

(Paaint no. Sebhen)
Have road, will drive. Indians drive on the left. Biharis have no such bias. Why, the right side will feel bad if we ignore it so often!! If they feel in their honking liberated minds that the right side lane will get them to their destination quicker then who gives a fuck about all these stupid traffic rules?

(Paaint no. Eight)
Any entrepreneur wishing to start his venture in this area should seriously consider the tobacco industry. A cursory look at the Region wise sales figures in the balance sheets of Rajnigandhas & Tulsis & Chaini-Khainis would lend solid support to my argument.
 I would go as far as to proclaim that the day this area stops consuming these products (wishful thinking I know, please excuse) all these firms would go bankrupt. I am not joking people. I swear by the redness and decay of every Bihari's tobacco infested mouth when I say this.

(Paaint no. Naayin)
As an impact of the point made above, one can also surmise that spitting is Bihar's national hobby. They take pride in the activity and strive to attain greater projectile range and volume with every attempt. Hell, I bought almost half a dozen red shirts just so that any unassuming spit accidentally landing on me won’t force me to go back home and change. I also stopped wearing white. Like forever.

(Paaint no. Dus)
Patna also has a healthy sale of paints. Buildings need it every diwali so that they can wipe off the creative genius of all those red-mouthed buggers from their walls. Come to think of it, dogs & such people have quite a lot in common. Just like dogs smell their way to the point where they feel safe to relieve themselves, people over here find corners of staircases making them turn a brilliant hue of red and maroon. In fact last I heard some building owners just stopped painting altogether; it was taking up more money than they earn. 

(Paaint no. Ee-lebhen)
Speaking of hobbies, another hugely popular hobby over there is peeing on the streets. Don’t get me wrong friends. People pee on the streets in other parts of the country as well. It is to a degree a national malaise. But the grace and elegance and the sheer frequency with which they do it here deserves praise. I guess it is the way men prove their manhood here. A man who hasn’t relieved himself on the streets is an outcast, a good for nothing piece of shit (which thankfully is not done on the streets, thank God for that). They don’t even need to do it on the side of the road. The more visible they make their 'instrument' to the crowd, the manlier they are!
People here also believe in a greater responsibility. Didn’t you guys and girls know? Peeing outside is a silent protest against man made fertilizers and a way to provide natural urea to the vegetation. That there are no plants on the tar covered roads is a different matter altogether. Somebody should try explaining that to these guys.
Statutory Warning: If you are unlucky enough, you might also get to see women trying it. (shheesh.. why God?!? Why did you do this to me??)

(Paaint no. Tubhelv)
Patna is cheap when it comes to cost of living. Don’t think that it means that the daily commodities are cheap. Most eateries demand as exorbitant prices as any posh Delhi restaurant would. What I meant was that bribes are cheap. While a hawaldar in Delhi would not settle for anything less than five hundred rupees if he catches you without a license, over here the hawaldar (who looks hilarious with his plastic helmet stolen from a construction site) would drool and address you as ‘Sir’ if he gets a hundred bucks.
A constable makes money for daily quota of tobacco by demanding five rupees from each auto driver who has parked in a restricted zone, waiting to load some commuters and earn his daily bread. The officer at the pension department receives an application for payment of a thousand rupees and pays only nine hundred. The rest are his ‘hard work charges’. State government babus have a fixed rate for any banker approaching him for deposits. But don’t worry, the muck runs so deep that you will get used to it.

(Paaint no. Thirteen)
Patna is also a very religious place. Well any place on the banks of the holy Ganges will obviously be religious!! How will they pollute the river with ‘auspicious’ looking garbage if it were not? It’s because of these religious beliefs that they have grown up following that even the most extreme cases of non vegetarian eating alcohol drinking perverts turn into pious God fearing faith driven saints on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Why only on these two days you ask? I don’t know; nor does anyone in this city. Just follow it and all the sins that you commit on the other five days will be forgiven by the force above.
PS- Apart from this, also be advised that shaving on Thursdays is a strict no-no. I asked why.. they said it was because of Hanuman ji. What about Hanuman ji, I asked?? No one knows. It’s because of him. Thats it. Don’t ask so many questions! Maybe he got into some serious shit with M/S Gillette and company.

The holy month of Shravan is a sight to behold. Saffron clad Shiva devotees flock the city from all over the country, using the city as a resting stop-over before the onward journey to Deoghar. Patna's citizens welcome them with open arms and the mutton and chicken eating populace share the faith in the lord by desisting from all the 'sinful' fooding habits for the month. Same is the case with Navratras. They do somehow manage to stop themselves for a month, but boy do they struggle!! I see people salivate when they see kebabs hanging from a road side dhaba. I see them pine for a chicken tikka when the so called non-believers are tearing into their pleasures. And I ask-Is there so much of a difference between you and me dear sir? You can’t take chicken out of your mind even for a second when you have vowed not to touch it for a month. I on the other hand eat to my satisfaction and pray with a clear conscience. Even when you are praying at a temple a juicy chicken leg might be dangling inside your brain, teasing you, making you drool. Isn’t it better just to get over with your temptation? Just have it if you want to, for crying out loud! At least you will be able to pray peacefully! But you won’t. Because whether you actually believe in God is not the issue here. The issue is that others must see that you truly believe in God. So even if you are one of the many eager customers that I have seen standing in a long line at a meat shop on the last day of Shravan, booking a hefty quantity of mutton for the next day to douse the fire burning inside you, you are still a true devotee.

(Paaint no. Phorteen)
Ahh, the language! The diction!! Those pronunciations!! How can I forget all those beauties! One of the first ground rules of living in and tolerating Patna is that you must forget the concepts of English & Hindi that were taught to you in school. The beautiful words of Bhojpuri when mixed with the standard English or Hindi words create such a eclectic mixture of words that first timers might find it a little tough to comprehend. Their issh-tyle will bring an iss-mile to your face. So bear in mind fellow first timers, its not “Bahar baarish ho rahi hai” , its “Bahar paani pad raha hai”; its not “Train station se nikal gai”, its “Train station se khul gai”; its not “He is such a decent guy!”, its “He is such a my-dear aadmi”; it’s not “Excuse me”, its “Haayen??”
And did you know? I have a very strong suspicion that Honda had actually named its award winning scooter as Acti. Maybe the guy who wrote down the minutes of the meeting at Honda’s headquarters was from this area. So as is the habit here of assigning the –va suffix to every single frikking thing-va on earth-va, the award-va winning Honda Acti became the award-va winning Honda Activa! Samjhe babua!

(Paaint no. Phiphteen)
People from Bihar love entertainment. And you would find it hard to believe that people from the villages have such a futuristic taste of entertainment that it is only in the recent past that Bollywood has embraced the same. You don’t believe me? Go to any cinema theatre in rural Bihar my friends, and take a ticket to any Bhojpuri film that is currently running to packed audiences. Yes please, indulge yourself to a session of Humaar bhaanji or Ay Balma Biharwala or Raja Ko Rani Se Pyaar Ho Gayil. You will realise that the concept of item numbers were discovered here. In fact, the movies are basically soft porn. So come one and come all!! Sunny Leone & Baby doll is so passé, dance to the gyrating tunes of the Bhojpuri madness!!

(Last n phainal Paaint)
Every single dish that is truly Bihari must have Sattu in it. And I am not kidding when I say that it is seriously good.. this Sattu. I found a small little shop on Boring Road (Yes, there is actually a road with that name. People here are very frank when telling others what to expect from this place) where the Sattu paranthas are truly delicious.

All said and done, in amongst the pandemonium that is Patna, always make sure that you find the right people. I was fortunate enough to find a handful of really decent people who not just helped me cope with the city as incredibly outrageous as Patna, but they left a lasting mark in my life. I can honestly say that I could only live there this long because of the company of these few people. I won’t name them because I don’t know if they will like it, but they know that I am talking about them. It turns out a hundred friends on Facebook are not as necessary or meaningful as a couple who are not on Facebook, but are there when you need them the most.

So, there it is. My Patna guide book-va. Keep it handy fellas. You will have to deal with a lot bud-baks over there. And you will thank me for this!


  1. well written vivek....hilarious!! where aere you nowadays??

    1. hey kaushik.. m bak in delhi now.. how r u doing?

  2. hey bibek (Vivek)..!! nice obsevation!!

    1. thnks mansij.. :) appreciate ur feedbak!

  3. Every place have or habe unique identity... issue isn't expecting things to change automatically... it's who and how it will change... i accept that many things you have observed or being witness of is close to truth... but that doesn't mean that things won't change... no defense bro... just expectations and believe which i follow :)

    1. very tru vijeet.. but the one problem that i observe in Patna is the refusal of the people to acknowledge that there needs to be a positive change in order to take the state forward.. unless that happens, thr cant b an improvment.

  4. Hi Vivek.. Nicely written buddy.. and I know how it feels when it comes out straight from your heart.. I had a similar instance.. but not so long.. You may want to read it at wrote some 7 years back...

    1. hi bhaiya.. read ur piece on the train journey..was very cool.. and somehow i can still relate to it after 8 years.. :)
      thnks for d feedbak